TRU, Inc. – Startup Profile

truenergy logo

Introduction

Food-related companies are very interesting.  It seems like today there are constantly new food and beverage startups popping up around the world.  Recently, I came across TRU, Inc. – a beverage company that is giving athletes and many others a healthier energy shot option.  The company has had a successful Kickstarter campaign and has graduated from two successful, global food-based accelerators (Startup52 and Food-X) backed by SOSV (VC firm).  The company is currently located in Boston and was co-founded in 2015 by Jack McNamara and Robert Avakian.

The Product

truenergy logos

drink logo

Our Conversation

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss TRU, Inc. with one of its co-founders, Jack McNamara.  When StartupConvos was originally started, the plan was for it to be an early-stage startup blog that dealt with technology-related companies (since many startups are technology-based).  However, recently the blog has covered numerous food-related companies that are very interesting.  TRU, Inc. is included in that group of interesting food startups.

High-Level Description

According to Jack, TRU, Inc. is a company that athletes can trust.  The company’s main product is TRUenergy, which is “an energy shot infused with vitamins, electrolytes, and antioxidants, to help athletes perform better.”  This beverage is caffeinated with green tea and sweetened with honey.  The product plans to launch in October 2016 (so get ready everyone!).  Jack mentioned that when creating the product, they made sure to have vitamins around the 100% daily value mark, unlike many energy beverages that go way over that 100% daily value recommendation.

Idea Generation

Jack is a former pro hockey player.  After conversing and playing with many players, he noticed how many athletes were taking energy shots before games.  He found it crazy that some athletes who took so much pride in what they put in their bodies, were taking these energy beverages that weren’t the best for them.  Around this same time, Jack came across a teammate that would actually drink tea before games (at this time Jack was playing hockey around Denmark).  After seeing his teammate do this, Jack decided to create a product that people wanted and needed.

Competition

There are many competitors in the energy drink market.  According to Jack, TRUenergy differentiates itself from the competition.  Many competitors are similar to one another, but TRUenergy made it a priority to really differentiate itself from the pack.  This beverage separates itself by being a much healthier energy option for athletes and many others.  As mentioned, the beverage is for anyone, but Jack and company really place an emphasis on addressing a target market that consisted of people who care about what they are putting into their bodies.  The health and food industry is huge and TRU, Inc. believes that they can take a bite out of it!

Entrepreneurial Influence

Jack grew up as an athlete, which means he has always had a drive and strong desire to compete.  Growing up his love was sports, but he always had thoughts of starting his own business one day.  He grew up in a very competitive and athletic family.  Jack’s parents were both DI athletes and his three brothers all played DI hockey.  He also mentioned that he is grateful how supportive his parents have been during his entrepreneurial journey.  It is clear that Jack is one of those individuals out there that has always had an entrepreneurial mindset.

Name Generation

The name of the company was originally called Kickstick, according to Jack.  However, there was a trademark issue and changing the name of the company made sense.  The team took about a week trying to create a new name.  The company surveyed many people and thought having the word energy within the name made sense since they wanted people to know that it was an energy drink.  The company still wasn’t sold on the idea though and entered a meeting with a designer with a few possible choices.  The designer noticed one design with “TRUenergy” in it and the designer suggested that the company should stick with that name.  Thus, Jack and his team decided to call the company TRU, Inc. (but TRUenergy was essentially its brand name).

Entrepreneurial Challenges

There were several problems that TRU, Inc. faced.  Jack mentioned that some of the challenges consisted of:

  • Dealing with frustration – “Nothing is ever perfect”
  • Never really being done with anything – Entrepreneurship is a grind
  • Trying for perfection when nothing can be perfect
  • Knowing when to pivot
  • Lack of funds
  • Trying to compete with larger companies

Jack mentioned that many of the bad things about entrepreneurship are also the best things about being an entrepreneur.  TRU, Inc. faced many of the challenges that startups face when they are just getting started, but it sounds as though Jack and his team have dealt with these hurdles quite well thus far.

Conclusion

It is always interesting discussing startups and entrepreneurship with former athletes.  Not to take anything away from non-athletes, but with athletes passion can truly be felt miles away.  The minute Jack and I began talking I could tell how much he wants TRU, Inc. to succeed and in doing so he will be able to have a successful brand and be able to provide athletes and many others with a healthier energy shot option.  Be on the lookout for this product when it launches around June of this year.  Please be sure to check out TRU, Inc.’s site at http://drinktru.com/ and follow them on Twitter @drinktru

*StartupConvos has no investment in this company

 

 

New Grounds Food – Startup Profile

New grounds food logo

Introduction

New Grounds Food is a food company that is primarily known for its first product the “CoffeeBar.”  The CoffeeBar is a “100% organic, vegan, and gluten free energy bar infused with a full cup of fair trade coffee.  It is a very interesting product because let’s face it, sometimes we don’t have time to go to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, but with the CoffeeBar, we can grab one and off we go!  The company was co-founded in 2013 by (two freshmen in college – at the time) Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari.  New Grounds Food is located in Boston, MA.

The Product

New Grounds Food product

Our Conversation

Earlier this week, I spoke with Johnny Fayad, co-founder of New Grounds Food.  Johnny and I discussed his startup, as well as some information about his entrepreneurial mindset and challenges.  Johnny is a young and very ambitious individual.  After listening to him speak about his company and about his entrepreneurial influences and challenges, it is clear that Johnny is as entrepreneurial as it gets – and that is GREAT!

High-Level Description

After doing some research on my own, I had a pretty good grasp of New Grounds Food before speaking with Johnny.  However, speaking with the founder of a company always helps when trying to understand what a company does on a high level.  According to Johnny, “New Grounds Food is a food company that currently has one main product, the CoffeeBar.”  The product is made up of simple ingredients – making it a healthy and delicious option for people looking to start their day off right.  The CoffeeBar is an all-natural, vegan, and gluten-free energy bar, which just so happens to be infused with an entire cup of fair-trade coffee.

Idea Generation

Johnny and Ali first came up with the idea for the CoffeeBar when they were running late to classes (which signaled a personal need for them).  The two of them wanted a cup of coffee, but didn’t have time to get one while rushing to class, so they decided to develop a product that would allow them to have a cup of coffee for energy on the way, in a portable, non-beverage form.  Johnny and Ali began creating the product in their dorm room.  The two even entered it into an idea validation contest at Northeastern and won some prize money.

Competition

According to Johnny, there are a few competitors when it comes to what they are doing with the CoffeeBar.  However, when it comes to energy bars, there are clearly many competitors within the space.  The main difference with the CoffeeBar is that “it is the original bar that delivers a cup of coffee per bar, with real, fair trade coffee.”  Johnny did mention that although there are coffee bars and drinks out there, “no one really delivers on New Grounds Food’s core competencies.”  New Grounds Food takes pride in not wanting their customers to be worried about what they are putting into their body.

Entrepreneurial Influence

Johnny never really thought about entrepreneurship when growing up.  During high school he used to create longboards because that was what he was into, but he still did not view himself as an entrepreneur at the time.  Then something began to change when he arrived at Northeastern.  While attending Northeastern, Johnny felt a spark towards entrepreneurship.

Name Generation

Originally, the name of the company was CoffeeBar.  Johnny and Ali eventually started thinking of a new name for the company – one that would be protected and allow them to create more products and not just the “CoffeeBar.”  After a lot of brainstorming, the two co-founders finally landed on New Grounds Food (although there was a possibility of naming the company Kaldi – which would have had a cool looking goat as a logo).  There was a story around the name Kaldi, but ultimately after thinking it over, New Grounds Food made the most sense.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

There were many challenges the two co-founders had to face when developing the product.  The process involved many steps and ultimately Johnny and Ali had to learn how to make the product, how to make it work, how to scale, etc.  Another large problem that New Grounds Food ran into was setting up manufacturing.  However, thanks to hard work and not being afraid to ask for help from professors and connections; the two were able to jump over the hurdles that were in their way and develop a great product and company.

Conclusion

Johnny is a young entrepreneur, which in my opinion is something we need to see more of today.  Students need to feel free to dive into ventures while they are in school.  Many students could learn from Johnny and Ali’s path and hopefully this article helps spark some entrepreneurial interest within them.  Please be sure to check out New Grounds Food’s site at http://newgroundsfood.com/ and follow them on Twitter @NewGroundsFood

*StartupConvos has no investment in this company

Metabrew – Startup Profile

Metabrew_Logo-01

Introduction

Metabrew is “is a ready-made, delicious, coffee-based drink that combines caffeine with healthy oils and superfoods to give you a steady stream of energy throughout the day, without the jitters or the crash of coffee or canned energy drinks. Instead, it will leave you feeling clear-minded and focused, happier and healthier. Its creamy nutty flavor, with hints of coffee and cacao, is exclusively made out of the best organic ingredients. It is naturally sugar-, and dairy-free, Paleo, Bulletproof and Vegan friendly.” The company was founded by Romy Raad and Natalie Neumann (or as their website refers to them – Rad and Neu).  Metabrew is based in New York.  The two began working on Metabrew while attending graduate school; beginning with research on how food can help someone perform their best and that in turn resulted in leveraging different ingredients to create this unique beverage.  After extensive testing and experimenting, Rad and Neu decided to develop Metabrew as a startup – following their graduation in May 2015.  To learn more about Rad and Neu, please visit their personal site: http://www.radandneu.com/

The Product

metabrew product

Our Conversation

Recently, I spoke with Natalie Neumann, Co-founder of Metabrew.  We discussed several topics that related to her background and company.  The topics we discussed consisted of: High-level Description of Metabrew, Idea Generation, Competition, Entrepreneurial Influence, Name Generation, and Entrepreneurial Challenges.

High-Level Description

The description of the business and product was discussed in the introduction.  However, there are more details to the product that Natalie was nice enough to share.  According to Natalie, “there are 2 servings in each bottle. One serving has the amount of caffeine of a cup of tea but half the calories of a cappuccino. The result though is this amazing steady feel-good energy. ONE BOTTLE of Metabrew replaces all your coffee needs for the entire day, keeps you running through your full/busy schedule, helps you focus, fuels your workout, and even cures your hangover.”

Idea Generation

As mentioned earlier in the article, Rad and Neu met while conducting their masters’ program.  Then, the two started experimenting to see what individuals could eat to perform their best.  The idea of Metabrew kind of spiraled up from there, since many people began signing up to help with tests of the healthy-mixture.  The interesting part of the Metabrew recipe was that it was part of the breakfast offering for people.  The idea focused on starting the day off on a strong note (since breakfast is the most important meal of the day).

Competition

When Metabrew started there was little competition in this space, according to Natalie.  However, over the last year or so there have been other startups working on beverages that can compete.  A competitor that has made a name for itself in this space for some time now is Bulletproof.  Natalie does not consider Bulletproof a director competitor though, since they do not offer ready-made products.  Both companies are creating a dietary lifestyle.

Entrepreneurial Influence

Natalie didn’t really consider herself an entrepreneur until she started researching the idea of the healthy-mixture.  Sure, she was an industrial designer who loved building and taking apart things from an early age, but entrepreneurship never came up until later in her life.  She originally went to school in Germany and then came to the United States to obtain her Masters (good thing she came here or perhaps Metabrew would have never been born!).

Name Generation

One of the most interesting parts of our conversation was how she and her founder landed on the name Metabrew.  I really like the name of the company so it was great to hear the meaning behind it.  It turns out that the name was chosen based on the Greek word Meta, which is a “word-forming element meaning 1. after, behind, 2. changed, altered, 3. higher, beyond.”  Natalie really liked this word because it basically stands for “beyond.”  She likes this term because she wants her company to empower customers and feels that Meta reflects that the best.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

Every entrepreneur faces challenges at some point in their journey (if they don’t then something is probably wrong).  It was interesting to hear how Natalie had to deal with some of the common problems that many new entrepreneurs face.  Some of her initial issues or hurdles consisted of:

  • Legal process
  • Operations
  • Producing a product
  • Licenses
  • Finding a good team
  • Learning things quickly

These were some of the key issues that Natalie and the Metabrew team had to face.  It just so happens that many new entrepreneurs eventually have to jump over these same hurdles as well to make their companies or products come to fruition.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see where Metabrew is 2-3 years from now.  Hopefully within the next year or so, I can catch up with Natalie again and see what has changed since we last spoke.  In the meantime, be on the lookout for this healthy coffee beverage! Please check out Metabrew’s site at http://www.themetabrew.com/ and follow them on Twitter @themetabrew and Instagram @themetabrew

*StartupConvos has no investment in this company